You’ll get tossed around, dunked under water, splashed and banged up while rafting the Kaituna River. It’s where Olympians come to train, but novices are welcome, too—provided they’re willing to brave the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall.
With breathtaking scenery, a rich indigenous culture and enough adrenaline rushes to thrill even the hardiest adventure seeker, New Zealand offers an experience like no other. Located off the southeast coast of Australia, it is home to a population of four million people—and about 40 million sheep! And it has tons of beauty to explore. Thanks to its amazing landscape of mountains, volcanoes, black sand beaches and lush farm fields, New Zealand is often the shooting location for major Hollywood films, such as The Lord of the Rings series. Whether you’re after action sports or just in search of the world’s most beautiful landscapes, you’ll likely find what you’re dreaming of in New Zealand.
Currency: New Zealand Dollar (NZD)
Government: Unitary Parliamentary Constitutional Monarchy
DID YOU KNOW?
- In 1893 New Zealand was the first major nation to allow both male and female citizens to vote.
- New Zealand was once home to the Moa—one of the largest birds in history, standing 12 feet tall and weighing 500 pounds! The Moa were hunted to extinction by the end of the 1500s.
- New Zealand was the first country to have its top three positions of power held simultaneously by women (Prime Minister, Governor General and Chief Justice).
- There are about nine sheep to every one human in New Zealand.
- Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to summit Mount Everest, was a New Zealander. His face is now immortalized on the New Zealand $5 bill.
New Zealand’s climate is dominated by its two main geographical features: the mountains and the sea. Which means that despite mostly mild temperatures, there can be a drastic range depending where in the country you are. In summer, coastal areas may experience subtropical temperatures, while inland mountainous terrain can drop to below 0 degrees Celsius. New Zealand’s weather can also change unexpectedly. Be prepared for sudden changes while hiking or participating in other outdoor activities.
- Spring: September – November
- Summer: December – February
- Autumn: March – May
- Winter: June – August
New Zealand was one of the last major landmasses to be settled by humans, and it’s estimated that it wasn’t settled until around 1250 or 1300 CE. The first population to settle in New Zealand was the Maori, who arrived from eastern Polynesia and brought with them cultural traditions of art, tattoo and dance. The last known full-blooded Maori died in 1933, however the culture and traditions continue to live on for many of New Zealand’s people. In 1907, New Zealand declared itself a Dominion within the British Empire and in 1947 became part of the Commonwealth. New Zealand was involved in both World Wars fighting alongside the British Empire.
This lakeside town is one of the country’s top tourist destinations and an adventure playground, featuring bungee jumping, paragliding and jet boating.
Want to balance bungee jumping, rafting, wind surfing and whale watching with wine tastings, fine dining and urban living? Then head to Christchurch, New Zealand!
Visit the Coromandel Peninsula and be charmed by its magnificent coastal vistas and rugged rainforest. Just watch out for the Moehau–New Zealand’s own version of Big Foot.
It’s best known for its all-natural hot springs, but the town of Hanmer Springs in New Zealand also offers plenty of outdoor adventure, such as mountain biking, hiking and jet boating. After a day of activity, soothe your tired travelling muscles with a soak in one of the area’s 20 geothermal pools.
The city of Tauranga is famed for its sun, sand and surf. Come experience white water rafting, kite surfing, kayaking, fishing and out-of-this-world scuba diving.
Home to some of the best surf conditions in New Zealand, the coastal town of Mount Maunganui rests at the foot of an extinct volcanic cone affectionately known as just “The Mount.”
Known as the Art Deco City, Napier on New Zealand’s north island is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of inner-city art deco buildings. It’s also home to some of New Zealand’s oldest wineries.
Filled with thousands of tiny glow worms, New Zealand’s Waitomo Caves are one of the most famous cave systems in the world. They also hold the unique title of sometimes being used as a concert hall.
This park is part of the South Westland World Heritage area and is New Zealand’s largest national park—as well as one of the largest national parks in the world.
This otherworldly landscape is home to ancient limestone formations, created some 30 million years ago when present-day New Zealand was still under water.
Featuring three geothermal reserves that are home to geysers, steaming pools, hot springs and boiling mud, Rotorua is one of the world’s most active geothermal area.
Tongariro National Park is a World Heritage Park and is one of the oldest national parks in the world. The Tongariro Crossing has been named one of the top 10 one-day hikes in the world by National Geographic.
This national park is home to two famous glaciers: the Fox and the Franz Josef, which are the closest glaciers to a coastline out of any others in the world.
Belmont Regional Park, just outside Wellington, is the perfect spot for hiking, running, mountain biking and horseback riding. It’s little-known to tourists, but treasured by locals.
This luxurious facility is located in Lake Tekapo, New Zealand, and offers an indulgent relaxation retreat – much-needed for weary tourists exhausted by the country’s endless opportunities for hiking, biking, climbing, caving and other adrenaline-pumping activities!
New Zealand’s Great Walks are spectacular hikes (or “tramps”) that traverse through some of the most scenic parts of the country. Here’s everything you need to know to hit the tramp trail.
A tiny nation in the South Pacific has become the first in the world to be completely solar powered. What other destinations top the list for most environmentally friendly countries? Find out here!
In the deep waters of New Zealand’s remote and mysterious Doubtful Sound, Stacey Wittig trawled for monster-sized lobsters and found enough fish to feed her entire crew.
Kat Tancock went kayaking at night in New Zealand to go eye-to-eye with glowworms in a cavern by the sea.
Belmont Regional Park is a treasured — and secret — nature park that lies just at the boundary of New Zealand’s capital city, Wellington.
Kat Tancock overcame her fear of water and learned to surf under perfect conditions in New Zealand’s Mount Maunganui on the Bay of Plenty — and she has the Facebook profile photo to prove it!
You will swear you have stepped into an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, old sport. After the New Zealand town of Napier was destroyed by earthquake in 1931, it was re-built in the Art Deco style of architecture — and lovingly preserved.
In New Zealand, Kat Tancock discover that soaking in hot springs is a great Kiwi tradition that takes advantage of the country’s location on the “ring of fire” and intense geothermal activity.